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Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

Article

Lois Bellamy

voice teacher, mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator, was one of four children born to Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker and Elizabeth Baytop Baker in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her father's parents were slaves. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker was born a slave on 11 August 1860 and worked on the farm until he was twenty-one years old. He was one of five children and was the first African American to earn and receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1906. In 1890 he received a B.A. from Boston University and a Bachelor's in Divinity from Yale University and studied psychology and philosophy from 1896 to 1900 at Yale Graduate School. He was minister of the Dixwell Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1900. He was listed in Who's Who in New England, 1908–1909 and his writings paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance era ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Philadelphia, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was the youngest of five children of the devoted Quakers John and Mary Edmondson Dickinson. When Anna was two years old, her father died shortly after giving an antislavery speech. Although it is unlikely that Dickinson remembered her father, she may have been inspired by his legacy.

After John's death the family struggled financially, but Anna still received a quality education, attending the Friends' Select School in Philadelphia and the Greenwood Institute in New Brighton, Pennsylvania; at the latter she was known as an avid reader and questioner. She showed early promise, publishing her first article at age fourteen in the Liberator, the newspaper that served as a platform for the radical reformer and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Following her 1860 address to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and her 1861 speech entitled Women s Rights and Wrongs Dickinson began receiving ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Chadian business leader and journalist, was born in the town of Ati, in the eastern Chadian region of Wadai, on 14 July 1949. Her mother was an Arab woman from Batha. After her parents divorced when she was very young, she remarried a southern Chadian man named Dordji who served in the French colonial military. Fatimé’s biological father, a trader, died in 1954. Her stepfather treated Fatimé just like the rest of his children, and so she took his surname. Shortly after her mother married this soldier, they moved to Bartha and then to the southern Chadian town of Sarh. In 1954 Dordji became jealous of her friends who were attending primary school In the early 1950s children did not normally attend schools before the age of seven While her parents could not find a way to circumvent the educational policies of the French administration the story ...

Article

Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

A woman of many talents, Eva Jessye pursued a music career that spanned more than half a century and won her a reputation as “the dean of black female musicians.” During the 1930s she gained international attention as director of the Eva Jessye Choir, which toured the United States and Europe, and sang in the first production of George Gershwin's folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935). During the next three decades, she led the choir in numerous revivals of the opera and in 1963 directed the choir for the historic March on Washington led by Martin Luther King

Jessye grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas, where, after the separation of her parents in 1898, her grandmother and her mother's sisters reared her. As a child she began singing, organized a girls' quartet, and, at the age of twelve, helped composer Will Marion Cook copy music for ...

Article

Marva Griffin Carter

choral conductor, composer, and actress, was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, to Albert Jesey, a chicken picker, and Julia (Buckner) Jesey. Eva changed the spelling of her surname to Jessye in the 1920s. Jessye later said that she received her life's directive in a speech she heard delivered by Booker T. Washington, wherein he declared: “I hope the time will never come when we neglect and scorn the songs of our fathers” (Atlanta Constitution, 6 Feb. 1978). That time never came for Eva Jessye, who dedicated herself to preserving the folk repertoire and performance practices of African Americans. Having ancestors born into slavery, she was uniquely exposed to their songs, with their inherent drama, during her youth.

Eva s mother struggled to purchase for her daughter the first black owned piano in Coffeyville which she learned to play by ear A ...

Article

Kathy Covert-Warnes

Wendell Phillips transformed his life when he heard William Lloyd Garrison speak at the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1835 and watched a white mob attempt to lynch Garrison. The courage of the abolitionist so impressed Phillips that he resolved to give up his law practice and devote himself to winning freedom for all slaves.

Until 1835 Phillips lived as a member of the elite group known as the Boston Brahmins. He was born in that city in 1811, the son of John Phillips and Sally Whalley. The Phillips family's roots in America dated to the early seventeenth century, and they had amassed a fortune before the Revolutionary War. John Phillips held public office as a prosecutor, a Massachusetts state senator, a judge in the Court of Common Pleas, and the first mayor of Boston after it was incorporated as a city in 1822 Sally Whalley was ...

Article

Samuel Autman

actor and model, was born Richard Roundtree in New Rochelle, New York. His father, John, was a garbage collector and caterer; his mother, Kathryn, worked as a housekeeper. Even while attending New Rochelle High School, Roundtree's physical prowess, affable personality, and good looks made him a standout. In high school he was captain of the track team and played end on the nation's third-ranked high school football team; he graduated in 1961. While on a football scholarship at Southern Illinois University, Roundtree became a model for an Ebony Fashion Fair tour. Upon returning to New York he began acting lessons, and then joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967 for a series of Off-Broadway roles for two years. That experience paved the way for him to star as boxer Jack Johnson in the stage presentation of The Great White Hope.

Roundtree s struggle to find ...

Article

Ondra Krouse Dismukes

poet, performance artist, and novelist, was born Ramona Lofton at Fort Ord military base near Monterey, California, one of four children. Sapphire and her family lived on and off army bases in California and Texas for the first twelve years of her life. She suffered sexual abuse from her father as early as age three. When Sapphire was thirteen, her father retired from the army and moved to Europe. Following her parents’ separation, Sapphire and her siblings moved with their mother to South Philadelphia, her mother's hometown. Soon after their move her mother abandoned the family, and Sapphire moved back to California with her siblings, to Los Angeles.

At age twenty-one Sapphire hitchhiked to San Francisco, where she attempted to reconstruct her life after bearing the burden of being guardian to her two siblings. In 1973 she enrolled in San Francisco City College as a premed ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mamie Smith began performing in vaudeville shows at the age of ten and came to New York in 1913 with the Smart Set Revue. After she appeared in Perry Bradford's musical Made in Harlem (1920), Bradford helped her get a recording contract at Okeh Records for “That Thing Called Love” (1920) and “You Can't Keep a Good Man Down” (1920). Later that year she recorded “Crazy Blues” with a backup band including Willie (“The Lion”) Smith. “Crazy Blues” sold close to a million copies. Its success energized the “race music” industry, which marketed Blues and Jazz recordings specifically to an African American audience. Smith continued to tour as a singer and actress throughout the 1930s and 1940s, appearing in films such as Paradise in Harlem (1939), and on stage with Billie Holiday.

Article

Foluke Ogunleye

Ghanaian playwright and first female playwright/director south of the Sahara, was also noteworthy for her children’s drama and ground-breaking theatrical experiments. She was born Efua Theodora Morgue in Cape Coast, Gold Coast (now Ghana), and obtained her education from Saint Monica’s Teacher Training College in Ghana; Homerton College in Cambridge, England; and the University of London’s School of Oriental Studies, graduating with specializations in English linguistics, African languages, and drama. Her mother was Harriet Efua Maria Morgue (née Parker), who hailed from the royal families of Gomua Brofo and Anomabu. Her father was Harry Peter Morgue, a well-known teacher of English (Anyidoho, 1996). She married William Sutherland in 1954 and had three children with him William Sutherland 1918 2010 was a lifelong pacifist and liberation advocate He was an active supporter of Kwame Nkrumah and was much involved in the activities of his government He worked with other longtime ...